Commencement Spotlight: Michael Kessler

Meet Michael Kessler, a Class of 2021 Trojan graduating with a PharmD from USC Mann. Here, the Southern California native talks about his experience working with the Los Angeles Chargers as an exercise physiologist and shares how this role sparked a desire in him to carve out a pharmacist position in sports medicine. USC has challenged us to advance the practice of pharmacy “to become experts in the jobs of tomorrow,” he says.

What originally attracted you to pharmacy? 

I was originally attracted to the breadth and depth of the education one gets in pharmacy school and the broad spectrum of career pathways that are possible. Prior to (and during) pharmacy school, I worked as an exercise physiologist in cardiac rehabilitation and transitioned to a primary care clinic focusing in sports medicine, functional medicine, and comprehensive health. The clinic and medical team were contracted with the National Football League (NFL) and the Los Angeles Chargers, and I became a part of their coordination team. In this position, I drew on my knowledge in health, exercise, and nutrition while implementing new ideas learned from my education in pharmacy. My direct exposure to current/retired athletes and team staff helped me see an opportunity for a pharmacist to be added to the sports medicine team and I hope to fill that gap.

How did you come to the decision to pursue your degree at USC?

Being born and raised in Southern California, USC was a household name for high-quality education. Unfortunately, USC did not offer my degree choices for my undergraduate or master’s programs. So, once I decided to pursue pharmacy school, I knew USC was going to be my first choice.

Now that your time at USC is coming to an end, what is one of your favorite memories of your time here? How do you feel your experiences at USC have prepared you for this next chapter in your life?   

My favorite memories at USC include attending the social functions and networking events with my fellow pharmacy students and having fun while spending long hours studying for exams.

My experience at USC prepared me well for the next chapter of life. The teachings of the School have instilled a high degree of professionalism, promoted interdisciplinary collaboration, and fostered an expectation of patient-centered care. Additionally, USC has taught us how to challenge the current status quo and further advance the practice of pharmacy to become experts in the jobs of tomorrow.

Can you tell us about your post-graduation plans? What are you most looking forward to? 

After graduation, I am looking forward to having more free time and being able to get back into my favorite hobbies and traveling. As of now, I am continuing my progress to create a pharmacist role in sports medicine to optimize therapeutic treatments and supplement utilization for athletes, educate coaches, and create collaborative practices with team medical physicians to independently manage the medical care of athletes.

What message would you like to share with your fellow members of the Class of 2021? 

To my fellow classmates, we have all grown so much over the past four years and become very strong and competent clinicians. We excelled in all of our didactic classes and started our APPE rotations by becoming frontline workers in a global pandemic. We have shown our strength, resilience, and intellect when others needed us most. I am so honored to be in your class and I am proud of everyone’s amazing accomplishments!

Do you have any advice to the students who are following in your footsteps? Is there anything else you’d like to share?

My advice to other students is to be yourself, follow YOUR passions, and trust the process. Your time at USC may feel overwhelming and stressful, and you may even occasionally question your abilities as a future pharmacist, but trust in the program and you will not fail. USC gives you all the tools you need to be successful, but it is how you use those tools that determines your career trajectory. If you adhere to USC’s professionalism guidelines and always put forth your best effort, you will stand out as a student, an intern, and as a practicing pharmacist. Also, take advantage of the vast USC alumni network. They, or I guess “we” now, are always willing to help, give advice, mentor, and help you create your path!